It is hard to say how many people experience upper back pain. Some researchers claim it is four of a hundred, and some will give you a number of seventy-two. Anyway, it is easy to agree that when a person is in pain and cannot move as they want without getting an unpleasant feeling in their locomotor apparatus, it brings their quality of life down significantly and should never be neglected.
How Does Your Upper Back Works
When we are talking about cases of upper back pain we mostly refer to the area from in-between shoulder blades to the sacrum. This section of your spine is called the thoracic spine because of the reference to the thorax which is a medical name for the part of the body between the neck and the abdomen. In regard to the vertebral column, we will say that its location is between the cervical spine and lumbar (neck and lower back, accordingly). It is attached to the rib cage and serves as an anchor for it. It also gives you the option of moving your torso and provides your chest and upper abdomen with the support they need.
The spine structure includes the vertebrae themselves (small movable bones stacked together forming a hollow canal to contain the spinal cord and innervation). They are cushioned with flat flexible discs with a gel-like center that are needed for shock absorption so the vertebrae will not get damaged when you are jumping or falling. There are also joints that allow them to move. This whole formation is surrounded by muscles and ligaments that hold them in place. When something works not as it should, the brain sends us a distress signal—in this case, thoracic spine pain (TSP).
TSP: Causes and Treatment
Most often, TSP is triggered by damage either to the soft spine tissue, like some of the upper back muscles, or vertebrae, and, sometimes, both. The common cause of upper back pain is muscle strain, a thing that we can experience in dozen different everyday scenarios:
- doing demanding household work, such as repairments or gardening;
- having a lot of physical activity after a long break (e.g. when you do not go to the gym regularly and tend to overdo it, a have a prolonged session of team sports, etc.);
- sitting or standing for a long time with your back slouched;
- generally having a poor posture with a weak muscular corset that gets strained more easily and is more prone to be overloaded;
- minor accidents like slipping or tripping.
Overdoing or conducting sports and other activities without proper safety techniques can also cause a herniated disc: a condition when the part of the intervertebral disc’s nucleus gets pushed into the spinal canal which causes nerve damage that manifests as pain.
TSP is also often associated with severe trauma. More rare cases of it are when it is caused by chronic medical conditions:
- Deviation of the spine curvatures, like kyphosis, scoliosis, or even Scheurmann’s Disease. It is when the spine curves more intensely than it should, creating an abnormal pressure on tissues and organs possibly leading to their damage and malfunction.
- Degenerative diseases, like arthritis or spondylosis.
- Different infections.
- Abnormal tissue formations, such as tumors.
- Not a back-related condition itself, but some issues occurring with closely located organs, like the stomach or the gallbladder. The pain can echo and be perceived as TSP.
- Chronic stress is associated with back pain. When stressed, a person tends to change their breathing patterns which increases the load on the back muscles.
Here are the main symptoms of upper back pain:
- Sudden and sharp pin-pointed pain that may be triggered by movement.
- More irradiated pulsating feeling.
- Stiffness and muscle spasms.
You should seek medical attention as soon as possible if the pain is accompanied by a feverish and overall tired and weak condition; it gets worse over time or standard treatment does not seem to be working; you experience trouble breathing or start losing sensation in the limbs; having accidental urination or defecation.
The methods for treating upper back pain include:
- Pain-relievers (anti-inflammatory and miorelaxing medications);
- Having rest and returning to the activity slowly;
- Applying heat or ice to the painful area;
- Physical therapy.
Those will work perfectly with an overused muscle or herniated disk. In more severe cases, if there is a tumor or multiple vertebrae fractures, the patient will be in need of steroid injections, hospitalization, or even surgery.